Villanova Basketball: Can Bryan Antoine Be the Next Donte DiVincenzo

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Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats had a solid recruiting class in 2019 that translated onto the court. Newcomers Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore each played critical roles for the team, especially in Big East play. However, neither JRE, nor Moore was their top recruit. That would be Bryan Antoine, who struggled to hit the court as he battled through injuries all season. However, back during the 2015-16 season, Donte Divincenzo barely played during his freshman year as well. So can Antoine turn things around in year two? Jay Wright and team history say it’s very possible. 

The Jay Wright System:

After nearly two decades with Villanova, Jay Wright has solidified himself in the elite level among college coaches. One of his best skills as a coach is with player development. With due respect to Mike Krzyzewski of Duke or even Tom Izzo of Michigan State, a significant part of why those two programs are great is because they get top recruits every year. Villanova doesn’t have that luxury of being at the top level in getting high school recruits. 

Therefore, players have to buy into Jay Wright’s system more. Wright won’t play someone just because they’re a top recruit; he plays the guys who fit his system and help win games in the immediate future. Look at Jahvon Quinerley. Quinerly had been one of Villanova’s top recruits in recent program history when he entered in 2018. However, it quickly became evident during the 2018-19 season that senior Phil Booth was the better, more experienced point guard to replace Jalen Brunson. After falling out of the rotation, Quinerly transferred to Alabama before his sophomore year.

Top high school recruits don’t want to sit the bench at the college level. That’s natural. But, trusting Jay Wright and his system has often proven to work out for both the player and the team. This brings me back to my main point that there’s no reason Antoine can’t be the next guy to become a core member of the team after a bad freshman year. 

Donte DiVincenzo: 

In recent history, so many guys have become critical members of the Wildcats’ team by their senior season after barely playing as freshmen. Josh Hart, Daniel Ochefu, and Eric Paschall, all of whom are currently on or played for an NBA team, are examples. However, arguably the most notable example is current Milwaukee Bucks’ guard, Donte DiVincenzo.

During his first season at Villanova, DiVincenzo struggled with a foot injury and quickly fell out of Jay Wright’s rotation. Villanova would go on to beat UNC in the championship that season, while DiVincenzo cheered on his team from the bench. In total, he played just 74 minutes and scored 15 points during the 2015-16 season, one for which he would ultimately be rewarded with a redshirt. Remember those two stats, because there’s a shocking parallel to how Antoine performed this year. 

After a tough redshirted season, Wright integrated DiVincenzo into the rotation. DiVincenzo played a crucial role in softening the losses of Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated, and Phil Booth, who missed most of that season with knee issues. As the sixth man, DiVincenzo averaged 8.8 ppg and 3.8 rpg and shot 36.5% from deep. His third season would be an even more productive one for the Big Ragu. After averaging 13.4 ppg during the season, DiVincenzo took his game to the next level during the 2018 NCAA tournament. In the championship game, he took over, dropping 30 points off the bench in a blow-out win over Michigan. 

So back to my main point, which is that the Jay Wright system has worked on many occasions. Villanova doesn’t attract big one-and-done recruits often, but Wright is great with player development. Bryan Antoine, who had a miserable freshman year, could soon be in line for a breakout sophomore season. 

Bryan Antoine:

In hindsight, both the program and Antoine wish he could have redshirted this season. The 6’5” guard was limited in the preseason due to labrum surgery he had the previous season and didn’t get back on the court until November 21st against Middle Tennessee. Upon his return, Antoine could never get into a rhythm and sat behind Justin Moore and Cole Swider for most of the season. 

In total, Antoine scored just 18 points in 87 minutes on the season. Do those numbers look somewhat familiar? They should; remember DiVincenzo only scored 15 points in 74 minutes his freshman season. It’s not to say Antoine will go on to play a huge role for this team, but he could undoubtedly be a key contributor off the bench next season.

Looking at this Wildcats’ team on paper, it’s very likely Antoine will be the sixth man next year, playing in the same role DiVincenzo once played. Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore will likely start in the backcourt for Jay Wright’s squad. This rotation would open up the opportunity for Antoine to play significant minutes off the bench. The only wrench in that plan could be redshirt sophomore transfer, Caleb Daniels. Daniels will be entering his junior season, after putting up 16.9 ppg for Tulane in 2018-19. Either way, Antoine will get the opportunity to play early in the season next year, and fans should be excited to see what he can bring to the table for Villanova. 

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